By Cassy Fiano-Chesser
Born and raised on the Jersey shore just a mile from the ocean, Sam Peluso has embraced life in Ponte Vedra Beach. With a life that includes service in the Navy, a 44-year career in finance, writing his first book, and working on a golf course, Peluso seems to have done it all. He has been married for 51 years to a middle school teacher and has four children. With his life in the military and his job in finance, he lived all over the country before settling in the Jacksonville area, and coming to call Ponte Vedra Beach his permanent home.
Q: What brought you to the First Coast?
A: I worked for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street for 44 years, with 23 of those here in Jacksonville. I was asked by my company to take a position in Merrill’s new mortgage department, so I got to thinking about my commute in New Jersey — it was almost two hours door to door. And I commuted by train, by car, by bus, even by ferry boat. I got tired of that, and I got tired of the cold weather, too. So my wife and I decided, I’m going to take this job in Jacksonville. At the time we had two young children, and four total, and we brought the younger two with us, so they grew up in the Ponte Vedra area, going to local schools.
Q: What made you choose to live in Ponte Vedra Beach?
A: Well, I got advice from different people who had lived here, and they said, “Sam, you really want to find something in Ponte Vedra.” And there was a natural attraction to wanting to be close to the ocean. That was our original thought. But more than that, it’s the people that we met here, and still meet here. The area is so diverse, it’s so welcoming. By diverse, I’m talking about very young families that we enjoy working with and seeing at church, as well as retired people. And when you think about it, the people here in Ponte Vedra are just so friendly, so outgoing and so welcoming. The local clerk at Publix, or the pharmacist at CVS — they all have something nice to say to you, they’re all willing to help when you have questions. Those are some of the reasons we thought, “You know what? This Ponte Vedra place is going to be a lot of fun to live in!” We’ve not looked back since we’ve been here. We really feel like we’re part of the community, and like we’re making a contribution.
Q: Was it a big adjustment coming from New Jersey to Jacksonville?
A: The short answer is no. My wife and I are very flexible. I’ve lived in many different cities, from Cincinnati to Seattle, from Norfolk, Virginia to Vermont. My wife is always willing to try something new. So in terms of getting used to living here as opposed to New York and New Jersey, it really didn’t take long at all. It took probably months, not even years. We just loved it. It was kind of like, what’s there to get used to? I know other people from New York and New Jersey struggle; they find it boring or too slow, but that was never the case for us.
Q: You’ve had quite a career after Merrill Lynch. What else do you do?
A: I just recently completed a book about my 44 years on Wall Street, including here in Jacksonville, and it’s now being published on Amazon. I’m also a part-time employee at TPC Sawgrass. My job is similar to that of a ranger; I keep the golf speed or the golf pace going on the course. I ride around in a golf cart. We get complaints from golfers from around the country and for that matter, around the world, who want to play on a world-class golf course like TPC and want to make sure they can play properly. I do golf myself, which is one of the reasons why I decided to do this. I work with a great group, and get to meet people from all over the country and all over the world.
Q: What are your favorite things about Ponte Vedra?
A: Playing on a world-class golf course, and having it so close. We can drive there in minutes, and just watching some of the best players in the world play. That’s one of my favorite things. But another is just watching my family grow and thrive, and enjoy all that Ponte Vedra has to offer, and all the First Coast has to offer. Another of our favorite things is the restaurants we have here. Being from the New York area, and working in New York for over 25 years, I think I know a little about restaurants. I can easily compare some of the restaurants that we’ve eaten at here to some of the better restaurants in New York City, and I say that with all sincerity. Living here is different, but it’s pleasant and enjoyable.
Photo courtesy Sam Peluso